Well said, Bill. Welcome to the club.
Rick Cooley [log in to unmask]
Dana Medical Library [log in to unmask]
University of Vermont http://moose.uvm.edu/~rcooley/
Burlington, VT 05405
On Sun, 19 Nov 1995, Bill Bishop wrote:
> I am deeply concerned about the current state of intolerance and hostility
> between a small, but vocal group, who believe UVM is an utterly racist
> institution and the much larger community of whites and more moderate
> people of color who disagree with this viewpoint. With few exceptions,
> the people I hear from are no longer listening to the discussion on
> UVMTODAY. Messages are deleted without being read. Many people are
> afraid to speak up and challenge the radical assertions being made. Free
> speech and intellectual debate are important aspects of the atmosphere at
> UVM and any college or university. The silence from the majority of
> people at UVM on the topic of racism and diversity is striking. Why the
> fear about discussing these issues? Why have so many people shut down?
> The answer is that they sense no room for a moderate position because they
> will be labeled a racist or a pawn of the power structure at UVM if they
> dont agree totally that the system is corrupt.
> When I hear the stories about racist conduct in classes and in the
> residence halls at UVM I am usually not surprised. Does racism exist at
> UVM? Does racism exist in Vermont? Does racism exist in the Asian,
> Black, Latino communities as well as among whites? Does it exist
> everywhere in our country and world? The answer is a resounding yes!
> Why should it be any different here? Are people of color the only group
> that experiences discrimination based on appearance or stereotyping?
> Absolutely not! Those that are overweight, disabled, homosexual, poor,
> believers in non-mainstream religions, or considered ugly (in a society
> that has defined beauty in a way that 98% of us can never obtain) know
> otherwise. Does that mean we should give up and not work towards
> fostering attitudes of tolerance, respect, and justice for all?
> Absolutely not. However, I think it is time to take a step back and get
> things in perspective before we damn the system and our leaders.
> The leadership of the Commission on Racial Justice has made statements and
> demands that are impossible for most of us to accept. All whites are
> privileged. UVM is a racist institution. People who draw a paycheck from
> UVM are loyal to the institution in a self-serving manner. They are
> incapable of operating in the best interests of students. Acts of
> vandalism and threats are not isolated incidents. The implication is that
> there is widespread support for mistreatment of people of color. From
> past experience working at Police Services, I can tell you that
> harassment, threats, assaults, and even death threats occur throughout the
> year in a quantity that would surprise most people. Most of these are not
> against people of color. However, most of these incidents are not
> publicized. This supports the conclusion that a group of people are being
> systematically victimized.
> The Commission on Racial Justice wanted complete autonomy to define the
> Executive Officer's position, define the reporting structure of this
> position (to themselves), and almost total control over the functioning
> of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Everyone, including the
> President, has people above them who in some way limit their freedom.
> This is a function of a hierarchy and serves as a method of assuring
> order and control. It is not a perfect system , and is often
> frustrating, but it is common to virtually every department, group, or
> organization at UVM. Sometimes you just have to work within the system
> in which you find yourself and try to change it from within. One way to
> do this is to recognize progress (however small), compromise, and accept
> that people may share goals, but disagree about the methods to achieve
> these goals. I dont recall hearing much in the way of affirmation,
> willingness to compromise, or tolerance that it is possible to disagree
> about methods from the recently dissolved Commission.
> To look at another perspective, the Office of Multicultural Affairs has a
> much larger budget than the Staff Council. The operating budget of the
> Staff Council (what remains after salaries and benefits for two 75%
> employees) is around $7,000. This amount funds an entity designed to
> advocate and support almost 2,000 staff at UVM. Staff Council has a one
> room office. Compare this with a much larger budget (perhaps someone can
> quote the exact number) and suite of offices and common areas at OMA, an
> organization that serves a much smaller number of people. The point I am
> making is not that Staff Council is underfunded or that OMA is
> overfunded. I simply want to point out that there are two sides to most
> issues and that everything isn't terrible despite what you hear. In
> light of the extreme position taken by the leaders of the Commission, its
> dissolution was inevitable.
> On Friday, I am told that a group of twenty-five prospective ALANA
> students was confronted by a group of people who informed them that UVM
> is a bad place for people of color. They were told of the Commission's
> withdrawal from the search for the Executive Officer of Diversity. They
> were told of the dissolution of the Commission on Racial Justice.
> My understanding is that this group was composed of leaders of the ALANA
> community who successfully advocated that the Student Government
> Association not participate in the search for the new Executive Officer
> for Diversity. How is this action helpful in the long term effort to
> promote diversity at UVM? I doubt that any of these prospective students
> live in a place not tainted by discrimination and bigotry. However, this
> one-sided and negative perspective on UVM will certainly not encourage
> high school students to come to UVM. I certainly wouldn't suggest we
> mislead people into thinking that UVM is a pristine place free from crime
> and racial injustice. However, this kind of activity undermines the
> efforts to make UVM a more diverse, and intellectually stimulating
> university. In most ways, UVM is a great place to study, work, and teach.
> I expect some heat for these comments and opinions. Consequently, I
> would like to point out that this message reflects my personal opinion.
> I am not speaking on behalf of all staff in my role as Staff Council
> President. However, many of these views have been confirmed by others in
> private. I would encourage dialogue and hope that we can get to a point
> when everyone will feel free to speak their mind and debate these
> issues. This is the key to progress. Sometimes you have to take a stand
> that is not politically correct.
> Bill Bishop
> Bill Bishop Fax: (802) 656-6550
> University of Vermont
> Transportation and Parking Services Phone: (802) 656-8787
> 622 Main Street
> Burlington Vermont 05405 Internet: [log in to unmask]